Insight into Surveying

What careers are available in surveying?

Surveyors measure, value, protect and enhance physical assets, such as commercial properties, residential housing, forests, marine environments, oil rigs and many other areas. A career in surveying offers a vast and exciting scope of opportunities with a number of career paths available to graduates. The broad areas that surveying covers are land, construction and property, but surveying roles regularly involve more than one of these and will often cross into other business sectors too.

Construction and property

These sectors are the largest employers of surveyors and there is a huge variety of roles and specialisms available. As a Building Surveyor you may be supervising the restoration of heritage buildings or consulting on the building of a new sky scraper, whilst Residential Surveyors often manage the valuation, purchase and sale of housing in the local area. Some of the most popular career paths include:

• Planning and Development Surveyor
• Commercial/Residential Surveyor
• Building Control Surveyor
• Building Surveyor
• Quantity Surveyor


Surveyors working in this area often work on all aspects of assessment, monitoring and management of projects involving land and the related environment. Surveyors can be found mapping boundaries, monitoring wildlife conservation areas or advising landowners on developing rural environments. Specialisms include:

• Land/Geomatics Surveyor
• Rural Surveyor
• Minerals Surveyor
• Hydrographic Surveyor
• Offshore Surveyor

What qualifications are required?

Many career paths don’t require a specific subject to enter the profession but Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences degrees are often high on recruiter’s preferred subjects. However some paths will require further study, either a Masters or postgraduate conversion course; see the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website for information on their accredited courses and careers advice, including the Surveying Careers Guide. Note that in some instances it may be possible to secure a position at a firm which will then support you through the qualification you require. TargetJobs and Prospects also have a wealth of information on the sector with industry-specific job profiles and case studies.

How can I improve my employability?

Competition for graduate positions is high and initially you may need to be flexible with regard to the particular specialism you pursue, but there are a number of ways to increase your chances of finding employment when you graduate.

Work experience

Pre-entry work experience in addition to your studies is highly valued by employers, and a number of firms offer structured placements lasting from a few days to a whole summer vacation. It is also a good idea to try and look for your own opportunities to gain knowledge and experience; this could be found by contacting the planning department of a local authority or a private consultancy. You can find out more about making speculative applications through Careers Network’s website.

Work experience might involve shadowing a surveyor or more general tasks that encompass dealing with public relations or the administrative side of the profession, all of which could give you a distinct advantage in the recruitment process. Also, work experience doesn’t necessarily need to be in surveying; any industry-related experience will be valuable. Before you approach an employer to seek work experience, it is imperative that you consider:

  • What you want to gain from the experience - be clear in your own mind and be confident that you can articulate this.
  • What you know about the organisation to which you’re applying - you won’t be the only person applying to them, but if you demonstrate that you have undertaken research into their business and are able to convey this passionately, you are likely to improve your chances of success.
  • What you can bring to the organisation - whether you have specific knowledge and previous experience related to the sector, or more general experience and transferable skills, the important thing is to be aware of what you possess and to be able to convey this to the employer in the context of their business, so that the employer will see how their business can benefit from you. To help identify what might be relevant to the employer, look for previous job descriptions and person specifications for graduate roles to see what knowledge and skills they seek. Alternatively, you could use a resource such as LinkedIn to find people who work at the organisation, so you can review their profiles to see what skills they possess.

Finding work experience opportunities

The organisations identified below are a starting point to help you as you seek opportunities. Also, if you would like additional support finding work experience you can book an appointment with one of our careers advisers. 

Birmingham City Council - One of many local authorities that provide students with short summer internships and work experience placements.

MADE (no website - 321 Bradford St, Birmingham B5 6ET; 0121 348 7980) -  Located in the centre of Birmingham, MADE is an organisation dedicated to improving the quality of our towns, cities and villages. They host a range of activities as well as voluntary roles for students.

MaceGroup - An International consultancy and construction company, Mace offers both summer and industrial placements for undergraduates, and runs a graduate development programme.

BNP ParibasThe Real Estate division of BNP offers summer placements and longer internships.

Sir Robert McAlpine - A UK construction and civil engineering company. Placements lasting 8-12 weeks are available, alongside longer 6-12 month placements for students seeking a year in industry.

RICS directory of surveyorsThis online directory can help you find local surveyors to whom you could send a speculative application.

Careers Connect database - Careers Network’s Careers Connect database is updated regularly with new work experience and graduate roles. Check the ‘opportunities’ tab and search occupational area categories such as ‘Built environment/Construction’, to find out more.


Once you have undertaken some research into the sector and found potential areas of interest, start contacting people in the industry and try attending any conferences or related events. Attend the university’s careers fairs in order to meet employers, and also ask your tutors if they have any contacts they may be able share with you.

FBE (Forum for the Built Environment) - The leading independent built environment networking organisation, with a branch that meets regularly in the centre of Birmingham. The FBE has over 1,000 members nationwide from a wide variety of backgrounds, including multinational construction companies, cost consultants, architects and designers, property developers, engineers, planners and consultants, legal & financial specialists and other service professionals.

RICS (Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors) - In addition to offering accredited courses, career advice, essay competitions and industry news, RICS runs events each year open to students and non-members.

Develop transferable skills

You can further improve your chances by making sure you are able to demonstrate to employers the key transferable skills needed to be a surveyor. In addition to a degree and work experience, employers look for candidates who can demonstrate abilities such as project management, organisation, attention to detail and self-motivation, alongside communication and presentation skills. Review the different surveyor roles or individual job profiles on Prospects and you will see the skills requirements for each one.

If you feel you need to develop any of these, consider what extra-curricular activities you might undertake in order to achieve this, such as:

Personal Skills Award (PSA) - If you haven’t joined already, consider taking part in the University’s award-winning employability programme, designed to develop your professional skills.

Join a university society, club or sports team - these are a great way of showing employers a proactive attitude and also provide students with opportunities to improve key employability skills such as teamwork and communication.

Useful industry job search websites:

Additional sources of information about the sector:

Other roles you may also be interested in...

• Facilities Manager
• Building Services Engineer
• Building Control Surveyor
• Estate Agent
• Town Planner

For more information and tailored careers resources see our ResourceLists on Construction, civil engineering and property and Natural resources, energy, the environment, conservation.


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